Tennis

What Caroline Wozniacki's Loss to Yanina Wickmayer Means for Wimbledon

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 07:  Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark looks dejected after losing a point in her match against Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic during day three of the 2014 Sydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on January 7, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Mark Nolan/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2014

Caroline Wozniacki's struggles in major tournaments continued at the 2014 French Open as she was eliminated by Yanina Wickmayer in the first round.

Beyond the baseline passed along word of her latest early exit:

Even though Wozniacki has proven herself as a very talented player over the past handful of years, including a stint at No. 1, her results at Grand Slams have been underwhelming. It's a trend she wasn't able to buck in the first two majors of 2014.  

There were questions about her status coming into the event. A combination of a lingering knee injury and dealing with issues in her personal life regarding the broken-off engagement with golf star Rory McIlroy made her status for the French Open uncertain. A source told Claire Duffin and James Corrigan of The Telegraph:

Officially this is because of a knee injury, but the split with Rory will not help her recovery.

What is clear is that this was totally unexpected—a real bolt from the blue. Beyond being a hugely successful tennis star, Caroline is an ordinary young woman who is suffering like any other young woman in these circumstances.

She sent out this message on Twitter leading up to the tournament:

Nobody would have faulted her for taking some time off to focus on herself over the game. Instead, she decided to play, but outside expectations were limited. The good news is at least the focus was able to shift back to tennis.

The biggest issue on the court for Wozniacki is the fact she hasn't reached a major semifinal since 2011.

For a three-year stretch starting in 2009 it appeared she was due to break through on the Grand Slam stage, but it never happened. Now she's been trending in the wrong direction. She hasn't even been making deep runs to the business end of big tournaments.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 09:  Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark hits a backhand during a practice session ahead of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 9, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Looking ahead toward Wimbledon and beyond, the most important factor is finding a way to change up her approach to become more competitive in the big events.

Back when Wozniacki was reaching the semifinals in majors, she was an extremely defensive player capable of wearing down lesser opponents. But when it came to the marquee matchups, she didn't have enough weapons to take down the sport's top players.

She worked to add more aggression into her game, but it came with mixed results overall and the Grand Slam outcomes have gotten worse.

Her best bet is either going back to the style that worked in the past or going all-in to become more of a power player to see if that could get her moving back in the right direction. That would take a complete overhaul of her game and mindset, though.

Right now it seems like she's caught in the middle of the two styles. And when a player enters a match with an uncertain game plan, it's tough to beat anybodylet alone the likes of Serena Williams when there's a Grand Slam title on the line.

Although it seems like Wozniacki has been around for a long timeand she has, having debuted on the major stage in 2007she's still just 23 years old. There's plenty of time for her to get her game back on track to become a threat in Grand Slams.

It doesn't seem like that type of high-end success is imminent, however.

 

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